« PreviousContinue »
thinks on, whence he is affected, wherefore he resolves; without which power he could not be a moral agent, able to perform any duty, or liable to render an account of his doings. Our Maker therefore hath conferred it on us, our duty consists in its right use, our advantage in its constant and careful exercise : constant; for observation implies so much, since if ever we shut our eyes, what we look to may be gone : careful; as the keeper of a thing so slippery must not sleep or slumber, but must be very intent on his charge.
This then is our duty recommended by the wise man : to be continually, with extreme diligence, looking inwardly on ourselves, on all our motives as well as actions : these dilated on. The holy Scripture often bids us to judge and examine ourselves : instances quoted. Verse of Homer tending to this mination, much admired by Socrates.
Such is the duty: and the practice thereof is of great profit, bringing with it many advantages; whilst the neglect of it is attended with many grievous inconveniences and mischiefs : the most obvious of these in both kinds are considered.
The most general and immediate advantage arising hence is, that by such a constant and careful inspection or study of our hearts, we may arrive at a competent knowlege of ourselves, a most useful knowlege, which is not otherwise attainable. The great difficulty of knowing our own heart enlarged on: the means of arriving at such knowlege stated more at large. Instance of king David. Cicero makes it to flow from Philosophy ; shown however to promise for her more than she is able to perform. All men are curious and inquisitive after knowlege, as a rich possession and a goodly ornament: but if any knowlege merits esteem for its usefulness, this, next to that concerning Almighty God, may best pretend to it: if any ignorance deserves blame, this is most liable to it. Other sorts of knowlege brought into comparison with this. The great mistakes we fall into, and the false conclusions we form through ignorance of ourselves, fully stated. Occasion of our Saviour's parable of the Pharisee and Publican. St. Paul's excellent advice to vain and presumptuous persons : Gal. vi. 2. It is fully shown that no man can be a true friend to himself who does not thoroughly acquaint himself with his own inward state.
KEEP THY HEART WITH ALL DILIGENCE, &c.
PROVERBS, CHAP. IV.-VERSE 23.
Keep thy heart with all diligence, &c.
Before we do apply ourselves to inculcate this precept, it is requisite that we should somewhat explain the terms, and settle the meaning thereof; in doing that, we begin with the last words, which qualify the action enjoined as to its degree, or extent; - with all diligence :' the words (mawn-?) answering to these in the Hebrew, do, according to the various use or force of the particle ip, admit a threefold acception. They may (1.) denote absolutely the intenseness in degree, or extension in kind, of the performance required in this precept: πάση φυλακή τήρει στην καρδίαν, Omni custodia servα cor: tuum ; keep thy heart with all custody ; that is, with all sorts or with all degrees of care and diligence; so the LXX. Interpreters, and the vulgar Latin following them, render those words. They may, (2.) taking the particle for a Mem excellentiæ, as they call it, signifying comparatively, præ omni custodia serva cor tuum; keep thy heart above all keeping; that is, especially and more than thou keepest any other thing ; so doth Pagnin understand them, not without cause, both for the reason subjoined here, • because from it are the issues of life;' that is, because it is the principal part and fountain of all vital operations, and therefore deserveth the best custody; as also for that in what follows, and in other places of Scripture frequently, we are enjoined to keep our tongues from bad discourse, our eyes from wandering after bad objects, our feet from declining to bad courses; and therefore probably in comparison to these, although needful and inferior custodies, we are admonished to this most especially incumbent custody of our hearts. They may also, (3.) and that probably enough, be taken so as to denote the universality of the object, or matter of this keeping, or the adequate term and bound thereof; keep thy heart, árò mavròs ovláyuaros, ab omni re custodienda, from every thing which it should be kept from ; that is, from every thing offensive or hurtful to it: so did Aquila and Theodotion translate the words. These senses are all of them good, and each may fairly pretend to find place in the meaning of the words; which of them with most likelihood I shall not discuss, meaning only to insist on the substance of the precept; the nature of which being duly considered, will infer that it is to be observed according to the manner and measure prescribed, understood according to any of those senses, or according to all of them conjointly.
As for the meaning of the words, Keep thy heart, two inquiries may be made : 1. what the heart is, which Solomon adviseth us to keep : 2. what to keep it doth import.
To the first I answer, that in the style of Scripture the heart doth commonly import the whole inward man, the è čow år. Opwros, “the man within us,' as St. Paul speaketh, the ó KputtÒS Tils kapdias úrOpwios, the hidden man of the heart,' as St. Peter calleth it, comprehending all the thoughts and imaginations, all the inclinations and dispositions, all the judgments and opinions, all the passions and affections, all the resolutions and purposes formed within us ; in short, all interior, whether tendencies to move, or actual motions of human soul. For the Scripture (by the way we may observe it) seemeth to favor that anciently most common and current opinion, (embraced by Aristotle himself, even as true in strict philosophy, although rejected by most of the latter schools,) that the heart, that material part and principal entrail of our body, is the chief seat of the soul, and immediate instrument of its noblest operations. However, because the heart in a man's breast is most inwardly seated, most secluded from sight, guarded from access, fenced
from danger, thence whatever is inmost, most invisible, most inaccessible in any thing, is called the heart thereof; and all a man's secret thoughts, inclinations, opinions, affections, designs, are involved in this name; sometimes all, or divers. of them conjunctly, are called his heart; sometimes any one of them singly (as there is subject or occasion of using the word) is so termed: instances in every kind are innumerably many, and very obvious; and therefore I shall not spend time in producing any; but shall
suppose that here the word may be understood in its utmost extent, so as to comprehend all the particulars intimated; there being no apparent reason for preferring or excluding any; all of them being capable of moral quality, both simply and immediately in themselves, and consequentially as they may be the principles of good or bad actions; and because all of them may be, need to be, ought to be, the objects of the keeping here enjoined.
But then what is this keeping? I answer, that the word, as applied to this matter, is especially capable of three senses, each of which may be exemplified.
1. It may imply to observe, that is, to keep it under a constant view, as it were ; to mark or attend unto, to inquire into and study our heart. So, My son,' saith the wise man,
give me thy heart, and let thine eyes keep (or observe) my ways:' the same word which here, is there used, both in the Hebrew and Greek, and can there well signify no other custody but that of attending unto; it being the office of the eye only to look and observe. Likewise, · Observe,' saith God in the Law, and hear all these words which I command thee;' that is, hear them very attentively: and so in divers other places.
2. It may also denote the governance or good management of our hearts, keeping all the motions thereof in due order, within fit compass, applying them to good, and restraining them from bad things : so the psalmist useth the word, when he saith, “I will keep my mouth with a bridle;' that is, I will so rule and curb it, that no evil language shall issue from it: so when the wise man adviseth 'to keep our foot when we go to the house of God;' by keeping it, he means rightly to guide and order our proceedings, or well to dispose ourselves when we address ourselves to religious performances : so again, · He,